Black Drip Coffee brewed from within a desire to bring coffee culture to historically disenfranchised and underserved communities, said Charon Thompson and Daniel Smith.
“It’s more than coffee,” noted Smith, who co-founded the brand, Black Drip Coffee, as well as the Porter House KC with Thompson. “We always talk about breaking down barriers and creating opportunities through The Porter House. We drink coffee all the time, so why not have our own bean? Why not have our own blend?”
What is the Porter House KC?
The Porter House KC is an organization dedicated to building up the entrepreneurial ecosystem in underserved populations, primarily: individuals interested in starting a business, startups and new products; and existing small businesses that are up to two years old.
“Part of the reason we do a lot of the stuff we do with Porter House KC is to show folks that they have the capacity to do the things they dream up,” Dan Smith said. “It’s not about ‘Is it possible?’ It’s about what role we need to play to get it done and get it done right.”
New to the intricacies of the coffee world, the duo first needed a place to start. Thompson’s house became an early, though failed, contender, he recalled.
“I was trying to roast coffee at home — it didn’t work out,” Thompson said, laughing. “I had a burnt popcorn smell in my house for a couple weeks.”
In an attempt to find a local roaster, Thompson searched LinkedIn — ultimately coming across Isaac Hodges, the vice president of sales at FairWave Coffee Collective, which includes the Messenger Coffee and The Roasterie brands.
Hodges and David Weber, a salesperson for Messenger Coffee, met with The Porter House duo to discuss what it would look like to create a coffee bean brand, Hodges recalled.
“It was in that in-person meeting that we saw something unique and really impactful behind the vision of Black Drip Coffee,” Hodges said, explaining that it is part of Messenger’s ethos to help partners they believe in. “… When a new coffee shop or business wants to open up and use our coffee, the only thing they pay for is the actual coffee. We stand beside them in ongoing training — whether that be helping design a bar for them or explaining what a profit and loss statement can look like for a coffee shop.”
Click here to read about Messenger Coffee’s union with FairWave Coffee Collective.
With the help of the folks from Messenger Coffee, the duo launched Black Drip Coffee in mid-April.
“All of this was brand new for us,” Smith said. “Part of the reason why we do what we do is because you don’t know if something can happen unless you just try. To that, Messenger has been really supportive in mentoring us around this Black Drip endeavor.”
The goal for Black Drip Coffee is to partner with local businesses and coffee shops that align with their mission and sell their coffee beans in those spaces, the pair said.
“The first location we are looking to sell at is The Black Pantry [founded by] Brian Roberts,” Thompson noted. “And then we’re going to try and partner with Aya Coffee + Books once [Jahna Riley] opens.”
Click here to shop Black Drip Coffee.
Click here to read more about The Black Pantry’s first brick-and-mortar storefront.
Click here to read more about Aya Coffee + Books.
Getting to Black Drip Coffee’s first real iteration, Thompson and Smith joined in a coffee cupping — a tasting technique that assesses the sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel and aftertaste of a blend.
“We were hopped up on coffee for a long time because we were tasting so many different things,” Smith said. “It was a really cool experience for us. David and Isaac are phenomenal as it relates to teaching folks about coffee and the notes and all these other things that come with it.”
In future coffee cuppings, the Black Drip team hopes to invite a small group of others to share the experience, they said.
“It’s a vibe,” Smith said. “One that we’re hoping to bring over to folks who we know traditionally don’t get to experience those types of vibes and lessons on coffee.”
Black Drip Coffee’s first blend is a combination of Guatemala, Brazil and Colombia beans.
“It’s a really approachable, all-day-drinker type of coffee,” Hodges explained. “It’s great as black, gray with cream and sugar if you need it. I think they nailed it in picking the coffees.”
The cupping process is done on a weekly basis to ensure that all components going into a blend are not getting old, Hodges noted.
“So [Messenger] will always be making sure that the [Black Drip] coffees are tasting great,” Hodges said, noting that Messenger will also manage the packaging and shipping logistics of Black Drip Coffee.
Check out some behind-the-scenes clips of the cupping tasting technique below and then keep scrolling!
Blended with hip hop
Product names for each Black Drip Coffee blend will be based in hip hop music, The Porter House team noted.
“Our first blend that’s out now is called ‘Renegade,’” Smith said. “That’s an ode to the Eminem and Jay Z song, ‘Renegade.’”
Black Drip Coffee also honors Thompson’s younger brother, John Timothy Wilson III, who loved to rap and passed away in 2019. The duo’s tagline “Coffee for the Culture” represents sharing the experience of drinking coffee with family and community, they explained.
“I always wanted to do something special in my younger brother’s name,” Thompson shared. “His rap name was Cultourzzs, so I knew that we had to do Black Drip for the culture.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.